For the past 27 years I have been a supporter of my beloved Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, although last night’s 42-6 drubbing at the hands of the Sydney Roosters gave me some time to reflect on where we are as a club.
Since the 1980s, the Bulldogs have managed to win at least one premiership in each decade up until the 2010s – a decade which started with Kevin Moore’s immediate rise and fall before six years of Des Hasler, culminating in Dean Pay inheriting a salary cap conundrum beyond any position the club has ever found themselves in before.
In the past, it was rare to see an uncompetitive Bulldogs outfit. They may have had the odd year where they performed poorly (2008 anyone?) but never in my lifetime have they had an elongated period of being anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder.
What occurred as a result of unprecedented, poor on-field management by a powerhouse club so used to success had resulted in their first ever three-year competitiveness lull in my 27-year existence.
Not without trying, the Des Hasler-coached period nearly produced a couple of premierships but the quest for instant success became their demise in the long-run – with multiple back-ended contracts of ageing players and a stale, predictable playing style unaccompanied by any marquee signings meant trouble was afoot.
The gamble ultimately failed and the Castle-Dib-Hasler era was swiftly ushered out and replaced by the Anderson family ticket and new head-coach Dean Pay from the 2018 season onward.
Hardly the fault of their own, the Dean Pay-led Bulldogs team these past three years have never looked like making the top eight. They are still recuperating from inheriting a roster they never wanted due to previous salary cap mismanagement.
Albeit a handful of decent players, the current squad as-a-whole struggles to emulate the era of “the entertainers” in attack nor do they show the ferocity in defence anywhere near as well as “the dogs of war” era, but they have always upheld the family club moniker and maintained their fighting Canterbury spirit.
Which brings me back to last night’s match against the Roosters.
The Bulldogs of recent times are slow starters. Against the current back-to-back premiers boasting world-class talent across the park, you probably should avoid starting slow because they’ll make you look silly – and silly they looked indeed.
The Roosters made sure their opposition was never given an opportunity to even contemplate victory against them. It took just one minute for them to score their first try and by the 24th minute they were tracking at a point per minute.
But historically, no matter how they are faring throughout the season, the Bulldogs play with their hearts on their sleeves.
If not for a rugged and overly impressive defensive display by the Roosters, the momentum of the game would have swung and seen the Bulldogs score a few tries when it mattered.
For the record, the loss was expected against a team that in my opinion will be the first NRL side to accomplish the three-peat. Unless they cop a myriad of injuries, I struggle to see any other side winning it this year.
Regardless, I have never hacked when Canterbury loses a game. It literally ruins the rest of my day and annoys me until the next round begins. I am certain every other Dogs fan is the exact same because we wear our hearts on our sleeves just as much.
But people need to understand that Canterbury is a proud club – one that bleeds success and will refuse to stay down long –and like it or not, the NRL needs a strong Canterbury Bulldogs in their competition.
So fear not Doggies fans, redemption is around the corner.
Such is the foresight of their current CEO, Andrew Hill, who identified their current position and highlighted we would be stuck in these losing ways from 2018-2020, it has given Bulldogs fans clarity. Through his transparency, this announcement served as the catalyst for the club to turn everything around again.
2021 will see a major turning point where the club will no longer waste cap space on players running out for opposition sides, with over $6 million in cap space to reshape the squad and make marquee signings.
This initial major rebuild will place us in great stead for 2021 and more so in 2022 when the club will return to being a premiership force once again.
The Bulldogs culture has not been dented just because they are losing. Each week when they run out for us they always show courage and pride in the jersey, and sometimes in a tough situation that’s all we can ask for.
Through thick and thin I will never stop supporting this unique and prestigious club.
Because I am proud to be a Bulldog – always have and always will be.